SARASOTA, Fla. -- Team U.S.A. will take the field Monday night in the 2014 World Cup. Support for the team and interest in the sport of soccer has come a long way in the states, and will likely only get stronger.
Soccer has been increasing in popularity over generations, and experts in the game are making it a priority to get talent to the next level here in the states.
"And what I've seen even coaching education in soccer has just really elevated over the years," says Ed Stroop, soccer head coach at Riverview High School. And because the level of coaching is better, the level of play is getting better as well.
Stroop notes that televised games and player profiles contribute to the popularity. “Even four to five years ago, the young kids that I coached, they didn't know the names of soccer players. Now they come to practice and say ‘hey, did you see that game today?’"
Stroop also says sports like American football and baseball usually require a physicality. Soccer can be a little different. "In soccer, some of the world’s best players are the smallest guys...the physicality is just playing a very creative game."
He explains soccer's popularity possibly gives smaller athletes a chance to compete. "I think soccer really levels the playing field to those who have a passion of being creative. All you need is a ball."
Scott Jones, owner of Soccerline Sports in Sarasota, has been selling soccer gear in the community for 33 years. His father was instrumental in getting soccer into high school programs around the area and was met with skepticism from other coaches. "It was a lot of resistance. A lot of football people were afraid we were going to take away from their athletes."